A “majestic and beloved” oak tree is at risk of being chopped down by developers building 63 new homes – prompting a fierce campaign from residents desperate to save it.

The axe is set to fall on a century-old oak tree in Clappins Lane in Walters Ash, where developers Dandara are building dozens of new homes – a move branded a “brutal and unnecessary act of environmental vandalism”.

The Naphill and Walters Ash Residents’ Association says the tree is being torn down to provide a “mere few metres of footpath” as part of Dandara’s controversial housing development.

Despite huge objections to the housing plans – including 300 complaints from residents – they were given the green light back on November 10 by the West Buckinghamshire Area Planning Committee.

Local councillors also raged at the plans, with Cllr David Carroll saying building in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was a “no-no”, while Cllr Steve Broadbent said it was “inappropriate and overburdensome”.

While residents have reluctantly accepted that the housing estate has to go ahead, they still have hopes that the beloved at-risk oak tree can at least be saved, even if their green fields cannot.

Gloria Leflaive, from the residents’ association, says there have been “logical alternatives” proposed, with one resident even offering to sell part of his land to the developer so the “resplendent” tree can be saved – but all have been unsuccessful so far.

The beloved tree has been adorned with a poster saying “save me from the chop”, while children have been pictured hugging it, amid huge anger from locals about the plans.

The residents’ association told the Bucks Free Press: “The residents of Naphill and Walters Ash ask that Bucks Council listen to the people they represent; to accept, in particular, the proposed creation of a footpath behind the oak to save this historic tree and prevent a further brutal and unnecessary act of environmental vandalism.

“We ask Bucks Council to exercise the power invested in it to achieve this outcome.”

A spokesperson from Dandara said they tried to come up with a plan to build their path around the tree – but the council was not happy with that.

They said: “The subject matter of the oak tree and its conflict with the proposed new footpath was discussed at length during the consultation period of the planning application, between the arboriculturist and highways department at Buckinghamshire Council.

“Dandara had proposed a build out pathway around the tree, which would accordingly narrow the extent of highway at that particular point.

“This proposal was deemed inappropriate by Bucks highways department at the time of consultation and the removal of the oak tree was suggested in order to gain their support for the development.”

A Buckinghamshire Council spokesman was adamant that all options have been explored. They said: “The new development provides 63 new homes, 30 of which are affordable. The site is allocated for new housing within the Wycombe District Local Plan.

“We understand the feeling in the community about the oak tree so have recently reviewed the case again to see if there is any possible option for retaining the tree whilst making sure there’s a safe pedestrian route to the new homes.

“We fully explored i) building the path around the tree creating a chicane in the road ii) building the path on the opposite side of the road and providing a new pedestrian crossing iii) diverting the path behind the tree.

“Unfortunately, the ultimate conclusion is that none of these options can work without compromising safety and leaves us at risk of not being able to fulfil our statutory duty of protecting the lives and safety of all users of the highway when we consider new developments and infrastructure.

“We do not take any tree felling decisions lightly and have spent a lot of time thoroughly examining all the options.

“We know it’s not a direct replacement, but it should be noted that the new development will deliver tree canopy cover of 25 per cent of the site area.”